Sodium chloride, more commonly referred to as rock salt, has been the ice melt product of choice across the United States for decades. Cheap and plentiful, rock salt once provided a reasonably effective and thrifty ice melt option for municipalities looking to deal with heavy snow and winter storms each year. Something that wasn’t taken into consideration until recently, however, is the effect that the millions of tons of rock salt spread each year can have on the people and the environment.
Negative Effects on the Environment
Even if you are very conscientious about removing ice melt or excess rock salt from your property, it is simply impossible to get all of it. And that presents a problem for surrounding plants come springtime, as diluted rock salt becomes absorbed into the soil. Too much salt in the soil can prevent plants from absorbing nutrients, and also prevent roots from being able to soak up an adequate amount of water. Both of these issues can cause plants to be underdeveloped, and to even die out entirely.
Another issue resulting from rock salt is when it contaminates drinking water. Higher levels of salt in drinking water can lead to an unpleasant taste, and also pose health risks for those on low-sodium diets as a result of high blood pressure, heart problems, and diabetes, among other health issues.
Potential Problems for People & Animals
One of the most common dangers of rock salt can result from it simply coming into contact with your skin. When dry, it can cause skin irritation or a minor rash. But when wet, rock salt can actually cause a “salt burn,” painful and potentially dangerous skin damage that can require immediate medical attention. Rock salt is also dangerous to inhale, which can happen if applied in very windy conditions. Dust from rock salt can irritate your mouth and throat, as well as your stomach and intestines, which can cause vomiting and diarrhea.
Salt burns can also occur if skin comes into contact with ice melt, which can pose an even greater danger to pets. As pets walk on sidewalks and driveways, their paws can come into contact with ice melt, which can cause the same salt burns on their pads. In addition, when a dog licks paws that have been contaminated with rock salt, they accidentally ingest it. This can cause salt burns on their mouths and throats, and in extreme cases lead to salt toxicity, a potentially deadly condition.
Risk of Danger to Your Property
Perhaps the most prevalent issue caused by rock salt is concrete and surface damage. Ice melt gets into concrete and asphalt via cracks and pores in the surface, and because ice melt refreezes at a lower temperature than plain water, it tends to thaw and freeze more frequently than water. This causes cracks, fissures, and spalling at a higher than average rate, which affects the overall longevity of the surface and makes repairs a more frequent necessity.
If all of these potential issues from using rock salt have you worried about how best to melt your ice and snow, luckily we have two safer options for you. First is our Snow & Ice Melt Pellets, a product made with calcium chloride. It requires less product use than rock salt, which helps reduce the risk of damage to the environment. In addition, it is less likely to cause irritation to pets and people, and because it has a refreezing temperature of -40 degrees Fahrenheit, it is far less likely to cause any surface damage. If you are looking for a product that is totally pet-safe, you can use our Pet Safe Ice Melt, a magnesium chloride-based product. It has a refreezing temperature of -10 degrees, which also makes it less likely to damage surfaces than rock salt.
Try one of these products today, and see the difference they can make in solving your ice melt problems!